A few days activity break, or how to discover you have one dangerous wife

We had a great few days away at the Calvert Trust near Keswick last week with some members of the Fife Headway group, even though we were playing “dodge the rain” a lot of the time and, to be honest, the food left a lot to be desired.

After we arrived on Monday afternoon and got ourselves sorted out and fed we were kitted out with appropriate waterproof clothing and backpacks for the week. This was a good move !

Calvert Trust, Keswick

Calvert Trust, Keswick, Lake District, England

Easy strolling territory

Easy strolling territory

Tuesday morning consisted of a nature walk along an old, disused railway line.

This was a good surface for the less mobile among us to negotiate with their wheelchairs and mobility scooters. I also quite appreciated the fact that it wasn’t too challenging as my back hasn’t been my best friend of late.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it and there was plenty of flora and fauna to keep people interested.

Tuesday afternoon we loaded ourselves up into one of the minibuses and were taken to the stables.

Amanda had been looking forward to this part the most as she had always wanted to ride a horse. She picked her favourite in the stables and was lucky enough to be allocated that one by the staff.

I was too heavy for any of the horses they have there and wasn’t really interested in being taken around on a trap so I kept myself busy performing my duties as official photographer. Amanda had a good time as the group was led gently along the lane and around a couple of fields, although the second group got soaked through as yet another downpour struck.

Amanda on horseback for the first time

Amanda on horseback for the first time

Then came the scary bit…

One of the barns at the stable complex was set up for archery and, having tried it out a few years ago, I was keen to get started. John, our instructor, went through the basics with some of us and allocated the equipment. Then seeing that I was reasonably capable he concentrated on tutoring some of the others in the group.

When Amanda and the rest of her group returned from riding he gave them their instructions and everyone had a few arrows practice. John then suggested we have an archery competition and we were divided into two teams. Amanda and I were in the same team but unfortunately we lost. I still say the other team were cheating because they were using a crossbow mounted on a stand whereas our team had to do it properly.

However… there were two large targets at the end of the room and slightly in front of them a small, styrene target suspended from a beam in the roof. John had said at the beginning that the small target was worth a mass of bonus points, but we had all forgotten about that during the competition.

With the competition over Amanda said that she was going to try for the small target and, given that she had been firing off some fairly good arrows, I thought she might stand a reasonable chance of hitting it with one of a set of three.

Don’t underestimate a woman who has never done archery before…

Amanda's three arrows

Amanda's three arrows in the hanging target

Amanda hit the small target with her first arrow, missed it with the second, then hit it again with the third.

Having collected her arrows she then proceeded to put ALL of the next three in it, including one in the small blue centre spot which had only ever been hit seven times before. As soon as an arrow is sticking in it, of course, it swings around and the weight of the arrow makes it come to rest at an odd angle, thereby making the next shot more difficult.

I think I’d better watch myself in future… this woman is dangerous !

My only question would be “Why couldn’t you do that in the competition ?!”

On the Wednesday morning we had an excursion to Lake Windermere and took one of the steamers from Ambleside to Bowness and back.

We had a hour or so to wander around at Bowness and while we were there a full, low rainbow appeared like a bridge across the lake. This was really strange because it was 11:30am and the sun was quite high in the sky behind us so why the rainbow was so low and flat puzzles me somewhat.

Low rainbow at Bowness-on-Windermere

Low rainbow at Bowness-on-Windermere

Amanda and some of the group above Bassenthwaite Lake

Amanda and some of the group above Bassenthwaite Lake

Wednesday afternoon was supposed to be the Orienteering but, due to the weather and the abilities of most of our group, it was abandoned in favour of another nature walk.

This time John took us up to the top of the hill behind us and we strolled down the forestry track and in through the back of the centre.

There were plenty of different types of fungus and plants to see, and we saw a kestrel and some red squirrels. Something for everyone.

Oh yes, and there was the scenery.

Thursday. Abseiling. (Or “Rock and Rope” as they like to call it).

This was another thing I had been looking forward to because it goes against my fear of heights, and what’s an activity break without a challenge or two ?

Unfortunately we’re not talking high up in the great outdoors here because the centre is serving people with varying degrees of disability, so this all took place in the sports hall.

Amanda was just like a monkey, of course, taking everything in her stride. I wasn’t.

I managed the rock climb (slowly), the abseil (twice), and then tackled the “winch yourself seat” suspended from the ceiling, but no way was I going to do the swing from one end of the room to the other. No way !

Tom way above his comfort zone

Tom way above his comfort zone

The "other" boat

The "other" boat

The afternoon was listed as canoeing, which was another event I was looking forward to. As the weather had improved so much that day I assumed the alternative, sailing, wouldn’t come into play.
Despite the fact that Bassenthwaite Lake was like a mill pond in places and there was hardly any breeze to be had, sailing we went.
I started off feeling a bit miserable about the change of plan but actually ended up really enjoying it.
We were again split into two “teams”, in identical boats, loaded up (or should that be “boarded” ?), and towed out into the lake whereupon we were given some basic instruction in sailing techniques and told what was expected of us.
As I was sat at the back I was involved in the steering.

To cut a long story short not only did I really enjoy it but the instructor commented that he had been watching the way I was constantly fine-tuning the direction and said that I seemed to have a real knack of being able to hold the line just off the point at which we would be facing too much into the wind. He even suggested that I really should take up sailing because he was sure I would be good at it.
How one would know one is “good” at sailing without being in a competition I wouldn’t know, but the session has certainly sparked an interest in me so anything is possible for the future, as long as I don’t have to remember how to tie knots.

We headed back home on the Friday morning having had a really enjoyable and entertaining few days and the whole group would like to say a big “thank you” to the members of the Dalgety Bay Round Table whose efforts in the Edinbugh Marathon and other fundraising made the whole trip possible.

Further information and pictures will appear on the Fife Headway website early next month.

While the wife’s away….

Amanda in KLM Business Class

Amanda in KLM Business Class

Amanda has had to go back to Nanning for a month to see the family. Her Dad’s not well and has been asking her to go back so now is the best time as she has found a part-time job in a care home which she should start about a month from now once the disclosure paperwork has gone through.
When we were online checking her in for her flights we were picking her seats and I spotted an available seat where I wouldn’t have expected one to be offered for her.
Not giving her the chance to say that she would prefer her “normal seat” (window, just by the middle exit) I said to her “Oh, there’s a good one, grab that !”. As it was late at night and she’d had a long day she was in no mood to put up much of a struggle so the deed was done.
She was more than pleasantly surprised when she boarded the flight at Schiphol, and had to check with the cabin crew two or three times that a mistake hadn’t been made.
I just got a call from her in Chengdu and she says she slept all the way. That’s the first time ever! Given how busy she has been over the past week and how tired she was when I left her at the airport in Edinburgh I’m so glad it worked out that way for her.
It’s also the first time I’ve ever been able to get an upgrade for anybody, despite years of trying, so I’m pretty happy about that too.
Now, while the wife’s away, I’m hoping to be able to get around to a few blog posts that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. They’ll be somewhat varied so there should be something for everyone. 😉

Amanda and Mary Poppins are the same person

Mary Poppins bag

Do you remember Mary Poppins ?

Do you remember the plethora of weird things that she pulled out of her Salisbury travel bag ?

Having seen what Amanda managed to produce from the suitcases when she was unpacking the other day I think she must be Mary Poppins in disguise.

Yes, given that this was Amanda’s “moving” trip and I had to book an extra case on the flight I knew there would be endless amounts of clothes and quite a few more pairs of shoes, but the list of other items was quite impressive…

Webcam & Mic
Rice cooker
Spoons/scoops for attaching to outside of rice cooker
Spare bowl for rice cooker
DVDs of Nanning Folk Festival
2 Electric adaptors and 2 extension leads
1kg Chicken Powder Seasoning
Set of place mats and Coasters
Upright chrome drying rack for kitchen, designed for holding chopping boards, knives and chopsticks
Chinese New Year door decoration
Dried salty fish (very smelly, but very well wrapped)
Dried Longan berries
Pork Floss 200g
Pack of dried mini-shrimp
Preserved eggs (pack of 8 )
Duck wing (1)
Chinese bacon
Chinese sausages (4 packs)
1 vacu-packed pillow
Water melon seeds (large pack)
More sausages
2 boxes of soft-grip gel ink pens
Sauce for hot bean curd (6 packs)
Some liquid for helping with the cooking (clear alcohol of some sort)
A shoebox full of assorted (Chinese) medicines
59 moisturising face masks
2 new pairs of shoes for wearing with her Qipao’s (very smart)
1 gold handbag, one blue double wallet, same purpose as shoes
A plastic mini heat-preserving lunch box with sections for soup, rice and main dish
Moon Cakes (seemingly hundreds of)
Another pack of CDs/DVDs in a travel holder

Somehow we’ve managed to find homes for it all, but it’s really emphasised the need to move to somewhere bigger. 😦

Butterflies and other creatures at Detian Falls

Detian Falls

Detian Falls - China/Vietnam Border

One of my little habits when I’m out travelling and I have a camera on me is trying to get some decent shots of the varying wildlife, usually without success.

On Monday we went to Detian Falls on the China/Vietnam border, a trip I had been wanting to do ever since my first visit to China.

There are hundreds of photos that we took that day, some of which I’ll put up in a later post or two, but just for once I managed to get some semi-decent photos of butterflies and dragonfly-like things.

Most of these are cropped from the originals. I have no idea yet what particular species each of them are, I just enjoy taking the snaps.

Click on any of the pictures to see it in a new tab/window.

Photography is like fishing… you should have seen the one(s) that got away !


Always worth checking your tyres (tires)

How old are the tyres on your car ?… Do you know ?… Do you really know ?
It seems obvious when you think about it but tyres are made of rubber, and rubber slowly perishes.
Tyres that you may think you are buying as “new” may not have been used, but that does not make them safe to use if they have been sitting on the shelf for years.
Well done Cheri for pointing this one out.
http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4826897 (with a commercial at the start, of course)
Oh, and the inference in the report (from 2008) is that British drivers are aware of this dating system… take it from me, it is not common knowledge !
Y’all take care now.

My own personal version of Desert Island Discs, Track 1, “Saltwater Joys”

The elements conspired on me earlier today to rekindle some old memories and to bring a special kind of warmth to me that I hadn’t felt for many a long time.

As I mused over the quiet enjoyment of the moment and allowed my mind to follow its own path it bumped into an old fantasy, one which will never come true in the real sense but which I realised that I can live out through the pages of my blog.

I’m one of those people who dreams of, some day, being invited onto “Desert Island Discs“, a long running radio program on the good old BBC. The program has spawned numerous copycats over the years, all based around the theme of “pick some favourite music and tell us how it fits into your life“, and I realised long ago that I was never going to become famous enough to receive my own, personal invitation.

I can, however, reverse the situation and create my own version of the show here, and you are all invited.
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Sweetie – the marathon running hamster

Sweetie - the marathon running hamster Sweetie, the Marathon Running Hamster,
has helped to raise over £5,000 for Fife Headway.

Find out how by visiting her blog !

I Heart China

I have a few blogs on WordPress already, all of them attached to this same user profile, Honorarynewfie. Some of them you may be aware of, some of them maybe not.

But now I’ve started another one !

For reasons that would only be clear to me it’s not part of the same group; I now have another profile, B2212.

The blog’s called I Heart China, and it’s a retrospective travelogue/diary of “our story”, Amanda and I, beginning with my first trip out to China to meet my beautiful little Chinese wife.

A lot of the pictures, especially the early ones, are not of a particularly high standard. There will be ones taken using mobile phones, video cameras, basically whatever was at hand at the time; but it’s not about quality it’s about the experiences, memories, and helping me to organise the thousands of photos we have taken over the past two years.

The blog will be a small selection of those pictures with a brief description of the events of each day.

The “About” page explains a little more.

The layout is still work in progress so it may chop and change about a bit until I get it settled. 😉

I’ll still be “doing my thing” on here; I’m not going anywhere; there will just be more of me ! 😯

Enjoy !

Bicycles in China are not environmentally friendly (5) – Conclusion

Yes, we’ve reached the end at last !

While picking up from where I left off yesterday, am I going to paint a picture of doom and gloom or do I see hope on the horizon for China and the environment ? Well….
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Bicycles in China are not environmentally friendly (4) – Globalisation

In this fourth post of the series I am returning to the original subject matter; the pollution being generated by Chinese industry, why it is being allowed to occur and, just as importantly, what the future will hold and why nobody really cares.

What ? Nobody really cares? Well, yes.

Let me explain a little about myself. This is me on that day trip, just having had lunch at a waterfront restaurant within the area. What do you see ?

Relaxing after lunch - near Qinzhou - Dec 2009

Relaxing after lunch - near Qinzhou - Dec 2009

You see a tourist; a western tourist. Ok, so effectively China is my second home now because it is Amanda’s home country and the rest of her family is there, but outside of the family unit I am still a “tourist” when I visit.

Despite the destruction and devastation that is being meted out to the local environment, do you see somebody who is up in arms protesting about it ? Of course not. Why not ? Because there is not a single thing that I can do about it.
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